There are few hints from the exterior of Paisley Museum that the "Golly It's Good" exhibition has now opened. The museum's shop's concession to the exhibition is that it now stocks jars of Robertson's marmalade and jam, the current range of beanie dolls (ballerina, footballer, bride and groom) and the 1998 /1999 brooches.
Thankfully, however, the exhibition itself is far more imaginative and inspiring. It is based on over 600 items from Mr Jerry Loader's collection probably the largest collection in the world. Although the exhibition is centred on one room, what a room it is! It is jam (no pun intended) packed with surprises and amazing memorabilia. What is even more incredible is that Jerry has formed this collection in the space of 8 years. You could visit this room a dozen times and each time notice something you overlooked before. Watch out for the new plaque dedicated to James Robertson. It is on the left of the doorframe before you enter the room.
As a brooch collector special treats are the Bakelite Golly, the Golly Girl and the Golden Viota with the diamond in the spoon. Also on display are the letters that accompanied the Bakelite and tin Gollies that are catalogued in Colin Dodd's booklet. There are jars of unopened fancies from every period and product range of Robertson's existence even a jar that featured in a "guess the number of strands in the marmalade" competition. Various china (mugs, cheese plate, teapot etc), a Golly car bonnet mascot, a Golly display model with moving lips and rolling eyes that sings "Polly Put the Kettle On". Children's puzzles, all manner of clothes (T-shirts, baseball caps, aprons, jumpers....), shop display cut-outs, a child's Golly seat, original design documents, a Robertson's advertising mirror...the list is endless. You can even see every Robertson's advert that has appeared on TV courtesy of Jerry. Just when you think (even Jerry thought) that the adverts had got stuck in a loop you realise each ad is a slight variation to the last...the same ad in B&W and then in colour. The haunting "See You At Tea Time" ads have been tracked down (circa 1968). There's even the sign from Robertson's car park! Richard Branson has also been moved to lend his "jammy b*st*rd" award (the Golly guitarist encased in glass on a plinth) to the exhibition. He cites it as his favourite trophy but can't remember who gave it to him or why. Perhaps a reference to his hair's breadth brush with death when making the hot air balloon crossing of the Atlantic?
But the exhibition is more than just a parade of Golly memorabilia and advertising. It tells the story of the man who started it all James Robertson. Of his humble beginnings, he and his wife's success story and his eventual death and legacy. It tells the story of a town with fond memories of the Paisley factory whose daily existence was entwined with theirs and how betrayed they felt when the town was abandoned in favour of Bristol. Local people have been invited to write down their memories (on the wall outside the room) and it makes fascinating reading. Former employees and locals have also lent photos of the factory and several items such as invites to the centenary dinner.
Being the opening day Jerry himself was there and several of the Robertson's family and ex-Paisley factory workers came to study the exhibits. Many had attended a preview party the night before, but by all accounts it was so packed that it was difficult to appreciate all the detail. Before closing on Saturday, the museum had already seen over 150 visitors to the "Golly It's Good" exhibition that day alone.
To reach the museum, I had a 6-hour drive to Paisley and a 6-hour drive back. That's a long way. But I wouldn't have missed it. Besides, it was the only way I could get Jerry to give me my exhibition brooch.... (only joking Jerry)
The "Golly It's Good" exhibition runs until September 30th 2000. Admission is Free.
Opening Times: TuesSat 10001700, Sun 14001700, Open Public Holidays 10001700
The museum is also home to the World's largest collection of Paisley Shawls. It exhibits local and natural history, ceramics and paintings.
The Paisley Brooches were issued by Jerry Loader to celebrate the exhibition but were all sold out as of March 2001. As with the Golly Badges issued directly by Robertson's at that time, the Paisley Badges were manufactured by the Bizz Badge Company.
Jerry Loader has now published a book called The Folly of the Golly.